B2 Laird Co

How Wichita Kansas became "the Air Capital" (2)

The First World War completely changed the situation in the development of aeronautics. European and American governments are investing huge sums of money in the service of the emerging aviation industry to integrate these new strategic aircraft into the armed forces. We pass from the era of balloons and airships to aircraft capable of acrobatics.


When the United States entered the war in April 1917, the aeronautical industries of the countries of the old continent were far superior to those of the Americans. The most used aircraft in the Aviation Section of the US Army Signal Corps for training pilots is the Curtiss JN-4.

At the end of the war, President Woodrow Wilson, who had reorganized 'The Army Air Service' under the War Department in May 1918, had 17,800 conscripts in this new entity for 11,754 aircraft and mainly Curtiss JN -4 also called Jenny.


Unable to deploy powerful combat aircraft, the United States sent many pilots to Europe. They flew on French construction planes like the SPAD XIII.

or the english construction type SE-5A

in units of the allied forces or within the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) led by John J. Pershing.


The First World War demonstrated to the nations the great potential that an armed air force could provide as support for ground actions or to carry out independent targeted attacks in enemy territory.


The United Kingdom will be the first country to recognize the importance of air power by creating the Royal Air Force (RAF) as early as April 1918. France will organize the Air Force as an independent Army of April 1933 and the US will form the General Headquarters Air Force (GHQ AF) in March 1935 after the Germans, the Japanese and the Italians.


Just after the war, the rapid demobilization of the ranks of the American Army releases the vast majority of its fighters as well as its planes. The Jenny two-seat training aircraft manufactured in very large quantities is no longer very valuable.

Matty Laird's first project when he arrives in Wichita to work with Jake Moellendick, is a three-seater aircraft concept for carrying two passengers, derived from the Jenny but more functional with a shorter and lighter wing. It will be the Laird Swallow. Its first flight will take place in April 1920. Its good characteristics will be known throughout the 'mid-west' in a short time. The first orders arrive quickly and Laird needs to recruit.

Lloyd C Stearman gets hired by Matty at that time by answering one of his announcements when the Laird Airplane Company begins to take off.


A great competition will exist between the thousands of aviators available after the war seeking to make exploits during flight demonstrations and companies of Mail and Cargo also finding their interest in a faster and more profitable plane for the transport.

Many aircraft manufacturing companies will quickly copy Matty's improvements to the Jenny by enlarging the front cockpit to accommodate two passengers, purifying the lines of their airplanes for better aerodynamics. The maneuverability will be increased by shortening the size of the aircraft. The Laird Airplane Company will be the first company to produce commercial aircraft in large quantities in America.